There was so much going on this week and weekend — entirely too much – that we need to clear the decks with this series of hot takes:
We have said this before but the proactive measures taken by Santa Anita Park and, yes, the California Horse Racing Board, have the benefit of having history on their side. But was with anything new, it has been a mixed bag.
Measures taken at Santa Anita, and at other Stronach Group tracks, with regard to safety protocols for horses and riders for the sport’s future have been admirable.
And that includes Santa Anita’s stepping to become a polling place in this age of widespread voter suppression in which incumbents believe “fake news” is bad but “fake drop-off boxes” are good.
Also laudable are actions taken by the most recent iteration of the CHRB regarding racing integrity and the safety of horses and riders. They walk the talk, e.g., being among the first to institute house rules banning raceday-Lasix for two-year-olds.
While mindful of the optics that guide public perception, they initially instituted whip rules that were more in line with international standards. But the most recent restrictions appears to be a bridge too far.
The first horse I ever rode was as a kid in that hotbed of horsemanship, Sheepshead Bay. My last mount was about a decade ago in Saratoga–in Congress Park.
And even in my undereducated view, whipping underhanded only and/or limiting whip strokes to two consecutive strikes doesn’t seem to make sense.
Isn’t racing official experience, expertise, and common-sense apply? Isn’t abusing whipping a lot like pornography—you know it when you see it? Aren’t stewards trained to recognize the difference, acting only when whipping becomes excessive?
The answer concerning the kinder, gentler, softer but effective “riding crops” falls on the public’s deaf ears because why fan education is the answer, it has remained largely a talking point without execution. Because most tracks are closed to the public at the moment, public demonstrations remain on hold.
Mike Smith’s recent argument makes sense; underhanded whipping is not enough, especially considering horses that lug in or bare out which is commonplace, in every race, every day, at every venue.
Danger to riders are clear and ever present. Jockeys must concentrate on doing their jobs and not be overly concerned by technicalities.
Limited whip rules in place at Mid-Atlantic tracks are playing to favorable reviews. New York is looking into the issue and is on the agenda for tomorrow’s New York State Gaming Commission board meeting.
IN SUPPORT OF NYRA’s PRO-ACTION
It appears the New York Racing Association is getting serious in making up the ground lost to Kentucky tracks whose strong purse levels have pecked away at traditional New York outfits.
But starting today, purses will increase, some by as much as 25%, a rise that will also include the short 18-day Aqueduct Fall meet which begins on Breeders’ Cup weekend.
To underscore their support of horsemen, all winning connections at the current Belmont Fall meet will have their accounts adjusted with a 50% retroactive bonus.
NYRA also announced its Aqueduct Winter schedule, one that will mirror last year’s, racing four days per week December through February, reduced to thrice weekly in March, before expanding back to the four-day routine in April.
Three elements have combined to make purse increases possible. Betting on the NYRA product is strong, and while share of simulcast revenues is smaller from off-track sources, it has increased. Additionally, the less-is-more concept is working.
Fewer dates and fewer races per card make more money available to horsemen on race days. This approach has the benefit of increasing field size due to fewer opportunities.
Of course, the recent reopening of the Resorts World racino operations is a significant difference maker. NYRA’s fortunes may be looking up.
BETS ‘N PIECES: CLASSY RACING TOPPED BY CHAMPIONS DAY
Nothing like anticipating Group 1s from Ascot before 10 AM on a Saturday morning, and what a great a start to the British Champions Day program with history making performances and a great feel good story, too.
Riding sensation Hollie Doyle took her first career Group 1, and first ever by a female on British Champions Day. Additionally, he took the first half of her personal $400+ daily double winning the Long Distance Cup marathon with Trueshan.
Soon thereafter then returned to win the British Champions Sprint by absolutely riding the hair off Glen Shiel who led throughout after catching a flyer from the stalls, lost the lead with 100 yards to go, but remarkably came again under two-handed highly energetic booting from Doyle.
In the lynchpin Champion Stakes, her real life partner, Tom Marqaund, guided Addeybb perfectly for William Haggis, atoning for the gelding’s Champion Stakes runnerup finish in 2019.
Marquand only won his first career Group 1 last month. Life couldn’t be better for British racing’s young darlings.
Wonderful Tonite proved a prompt favorite in the British Champions Filly and Mare event thanks to her highly unusual display of stamina after a very demanding trip on soft ground.
In fact, it was the filly’s second Group 1 win over a two-week span. Decisions as to whether we will see any of them at the Breeders’ Cup are pending…
BETS ‘N PIECES
Bodexpress remained undefeated in three starts at “Calder” with an 11-1/4 length victory in the wet-track feature, missing the track record by .001 seconds in a powerhouse performance. Might be ready to re-enter prime time once again…
Performer returned to racing at Belmont Park following an 11-month absence and won like the future early favorite for the Cigar Mile, whatever happens between now and the first weekend of December…
Venetian Harbor finally got away from some of the division’s heavy heads and found the competition much to her liking, taking Keeneland’s G2 Raven Run. Despite controlling a moderate pace, she was all out to withstand tough-tripping, rail-running runnerup Finite, who might have been best…
Terrific stamina workout for Tiz the Law Saturday morning [full disclosure I have not yet seen it], but love the way it played out on paper: Six furlongs in 1:12.26, following splits of 13.07, 24.84, 36.43, and 47.63, galloping out 7 furlongs in 1:25.46 with a double-gallop out of 1:40.05 for one mile…
Great video interviews from Eclipse-winning freelancer Jennie Rees who spoke with the trainers of Tom’s d’Etat, Swiss Skydiver and Art Collector about their Breeders’ Cup prospects. If interested, find it on Kentucky HBPA’s YouTube Channel.